Marriage is a crucial phase in a couple’s life. It is not only the crowning achievement of a relationship of love and harmony between the engaged couple, but also a great event for their parents who want to celebrate this union for life as it should be!
In Tunisia, according to tradition, this happy event is often celebrated over the course of a week, 7 days and 7 nights. During this period of celebrations prior to the wedding night, the bride will wear almost 4 different dresses depending on the theme of the evening or the program of the day, Outia, Henna, Jeloua, Hamam, Hezen Farch, Zhez… future husband, he celebrates his wedding according to his the habits and customs of the family and the town of origin…
But with the evolution of mentalities and the high cost of marriage, do families and couples today still hold on to these ancestral traditions? Have these rituals survived, been updated, or are they being lost? Newlyweds agreed to answer our questions.
Traditions and rituals across regions
In fact, each region in Tunisia has its own traditions and rituals regarding marriage. The order of these celebrations must be respected according to the local rules of marriage, which are common throughout the country…The program begins with the reception of the bride’s trousers, the gifts offered by the husband of clothes, lingerie, make-up, more Zhez that she will show in trousers… The next day the bride’s aunts, cousins and friends accompany the future wife to her new home to unwrap her Zhez in front of the guests, that is Hazzen Farch. The third day is dedicated to the Bride’s Hammam. The fourth day is dedicated to Henna, the fifth to Harkous and the sixth to Outia.
During this evening, in the Sahel, the wife-to-be wears a Jelwa. It is a traditional costume of the region whose Farmla (top) is made of gold thread, fully embroidered and very heavy to wear…
In Tunis, brides wear a different outfit consisting of a “Fouta” top and a “Blouza” skirt. In Kairouan, the bride must wear two outfits including a Tarayoune, a black outfit embroidered in silver and gold thread… In Sfax, the bride jumps seven over a fish, a ritual that will bring her good luck… During her Outia, the guests also offer her money as a gift, which she will wear in a necklace of banknotes… In Mahdia, this celebration is completely different.
The bride covers her head with a cloth inherited from her mother (Hrem) which she wore at her wedding and replaces it at midnight with another previously worn by her mother-in-law. Mahdoise Outia is also celebrated with a Hezb, a troupe of female singers, and the evening is 100% feminine… In Moknine, the bride spends these 7 days, her face covered by a light veil embroidered in gold… In Djerba too, when the wedding date is fixed, the bride must hide, and after a week of celebration she leaves the parental home in a Jahfa, a palanquin installed on the back of a camel, on which she sits dressed in a djerbian. outfit which only shows her ankles, wearing a gold khulkhal…
Among all these traditions, do young people still have a taste for traditional weddings?
Between tradition and modernity
With time, the high cost of living and the cost of marriage, young people are actually choosing less for these long celebrations. For other modern couples, letting go of these traditions has nothing to do with affordability. It’s just a matter of preference, of taste for more modern, even westernized evenings.
This is the case with Sirine, a 26-year-old girl who is getting married this summer and for whom traditions are very important. Being born and living in Belgium, she chose two different marriages: the first celebrated in Antwerp, the day of the signing of the contract organized by a young girl and a young boy. But when we are back in Tunisia, we will celebrate this long-awaited event by us, and by our parents, in the rules of art! “, she announces proudly.
Sirine told us that the festivities for her wedding will begin with a Hammam, an oriental evening where she will do Henna and Harkous. This program will be followed by a dinner with his beautiful family. On the menu couscous with lamb and Hlelem for the young girls who accompanied him to the Moorish bath. “These are the traditions of the Sahel region”, she clarifies, adding that she will celebrate her wedding over 4 nights instead of 7.
“It is my in-laws who will celebrate our wedding properly… So there will be two Outia one for me à la Tunisoise where I will wear a Fouta and Blouza and another more modern “Tabdila”. These costumes are a part of our identity and I couldn’t do without them…The second night I go to Jelwa du Sahel as my husband is from Sousse…And then, to finish, we celebrate our wedding in a ballroom in Sousse, because to be able to make the “Tasdira” that I dreamed of since I was little,” the bride-to-be confides to us with tears in her eyes.
For this couple, this event is also a gift to their parents, whom they must satisfy and make proud… “Respect for traditions is sacred in our families. All these celebrations are for us a form of expression of our joy and of valorization of rituals passed down from generation to generation,” added the man Bassem…
We also reached out to Amina, who regrets not being able to celebrate her wedding properly due to the restrictions of the covid-19 pandemic. “I got married in July 2021, when the pandemic was at its peak. I did not do Henna, Hammam or Tasdira for the wedding. We chose an Outia, “Farchen Farch”, and signed a contract with the municipality of La Marsa, followed by an evening with friends at a restaurant… It was a cold and quick marriage. If I had to do it over again, I would celebrate this unique event all week! she regrets. “But considering my husband’s financial situation at the time and our limited budget, couldn’t we do better,” Amina lamented bitterly.
For other couples, the wedding is seen only as the celebration of the newlyweds, which should be organized only according to their preferences and tastes, far from the demands of the in-laws. This is the case with Nader and Leila, who celebrated their marriage with consecutive parties. “We chose a mix between tradition and modernity. The hammam was for us a scene we must not miss. Farchen Farch too, which according to our traditions should bring happiness to the bride and groom. During Zhez, the mothers-in-law actually choose two children in the family, a girl and a boy, to lay on the spouses’ wedding bed to attract fertility…”, she explains to us.
Nader and Leila also organized two bachelor parties for young girls and boys. Plus an evening organized by a DJ who replaces Outia. “We danced the night away with family and friends. Then we celebrated our wedding with a traditional Tasdira in a ballroom, followed by another evening with friends at the hotel where we spent the wedding night…”, says the young bride.
For this couple, their marriage was in their image of bon vivants and passionate about parties. For them, they are able to satisfy family and friends in a relaxed atmosphere, without stress, without the need for 3 to 4 dresses that cost thousands of dinars…